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Teaching and advertising

Teacher, meet ad guy. Ad guy, meet teacher. You two could learn a LOT from each other in this braver, grimmer, faster, more authentic world. But I can sum up my feelings as:

Teachers need to get better at motivation.

Advertisers need to get better at...caring and honesty. (Not to mention things like REAL retention and recall--something teachers know a little something about...)

Advertising (in its conventional, old-school form) may indeed be dying. Meanwhile teachers/instructors are struggling more than ever to get learners to pay attention and learn. But I believe both groups could improve their results if they took a lesson from the other. Advertisers need to care, and be honest--something teachers can be quite proud of. Teachers, on the other hand, need to work on their motivation--the domain that advertisers have (or had) down.

Advertisers have 30 seconds in which to convince someone that this [insert any lame product] will lead to more sex. And the weird part is how damn effective they've actually been at this, especially in the days when everybody read the same limited number of magazines and watched the same three TV networks.

Teachers, on the other hand, have been providing inspiration and changing the lives of kids. Almost any adult today can think back to at least one teacher who really made a difference in their life. Why? Because the teacher cared, and cared enough to be honest. They were authentic.

But teachers are finding themselves less effective today, when the competition for attention has become much more fierce, and the signal to noise ratio makes it harder than ever to get anything to stick. Students of all ages today would simply rather be doing something else than sitting in class learning... what exactly?

If I'm teaching, I want to remember that I need to offer "meaningful benefits". And by meaningful benefits, I don't mean, "...if you do this, then the enterprise component will stay synchronized with the underlying persistent store..." No, if an advertiser rewrote that, he might say, "Because if you do this with the enterprise component, you'll be a frickin' hero and... have more sex." Or, "because if you DON'T do this, you'll lose your job and nobody has sex with losers..."

What can I learn from that? I can take the motivation to its logical conclusion, then take one step back, and let the learner make the leap. So instead of, "... then the enterprise component will stay stay synchronized with the underlying persistent store..." I might say, "if you don't do it this way, you could be a victim of the dreaded Lost Update problem and... that means you could lose the entire record of Suzy's last Victoria's Secret purchase." Then I let them make the one final leap to, "the boss screams at me, it shows up on my performance eval, I don't get that raise, and that means... less sex." (And yes, there's a reason I said "Victoria's Secret" and not "lose the entire record of Bill's Office Supplies purchase...". It's almost biologically impossible to not have at least some tiny chemical reaction to the phrase "Victoria's Secret" that simply doesn't happen when you're talking about pencils and staplers. And remember, it's that chemical reaction that leads to attention and memory. It's that chemical reaction that tells the brain that this is important! Pay attention and record!

And what can advertisers learn from teachers? To be honest. To find out what really IS good for people. No, not to find out, to care. Then they use their powers of motivation... for good. To help people learn faster, become more effective, make better choices. Yes I really AM that naive and optimistic. But if the Cluetrain predictions are true, and I believe they are, and advertising is no longer going to work, then advertisers are going to have a lot more time on their hands. And they can use that time to, say, start a blog that teaches someone why they really should buy this product, and how this product really can make their life better.

Most importantly, if the product is crap, or it can't really do what they're claiming, I hope advertisers will do what teachers do...be honest. Care.

So, when someone asks me how to become a better instructor, I often tell them to study up a little on what advertisers are doing. When someone in marketing wants to do a better job, I tell them to learn a thing or two about learning.

Posted by Kathy on January 27, 2005 | Permalink


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» Smart new blog from What's Your Brand Mantra?
Thanks, Hugh, for the link to this smart, cool new blog. I'm a fan. Love this post on Teaching and Advertising. Teachers need to get better at motivation. Advertisers need to get better at...caring and honesty. Go there to read [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 27, 2005 10:09:18 PM

» Teaching, Advertising and How They Can Learn From Each Other from Asterisk
[Via What’s Your Brand Mantra] It may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but teachers and advertisers have quiet a lot in common. This wonderful post talks about those commonalities, makes some very good points and some honest, heartfelt obse... [Read More]

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Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users did an interesting post in January on the links between teaching and advertising. Her thesis is that, "Teachers need to get better at motivation. Advertisers need to get better at...caring and honesty. (Not to... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 12, 2005 11:15:22 AM

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Creating Passionate Users: Teaching and advertising Advertising (in its conventional, old-school form) may indeed be dying.... [Read More]

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» Death to The Old School from PageCoach
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"We need emotional content." --B.L.

Unfortunately, people trying to sell things (advertisers, politicians, fanatics, neurotics, etc. :-) use that as an excuse to attempt to manipulate the polarization of the discussion to their own ends. Example: the insane discussion about "fairness" in the "Intelligent Design" vs. Science war.

IMHO, the place where teachers (and parents) miss the value of emotion is that they attempt to impose what they consider important without listening and understanding how to connect that with what the students value. Then again, very few teachers ever learn the actual lesson of Skinner's "behavioral modification." Alas.

Posted by: John D. Mitchell | Jan 27, 2005 6:31:52 PM

John D. hits the nail on the head. Learning is behavior modification. You obtain behavior modification via rewards/punishment. In teaching, students get A's and positive results from Mom/Dad/college acceptance or negative results along the same lines. In advertising, do they think of this concept? Do advertisers correlate an increase in sales for the client to a successful campaign? Shouldn't that be the goal of any advertisement....increased sales or demonstrated mind share increase from the public?

Also, one other thing to consider in discussing this post....it's my opinion that teachers tend to teach because they have a passion for it...there isn't really any monetary motivation. Using a very gross generalization, advertising types are somewhat hamstrung by the money thing. No doubt, we have missed many great forms of ads because the ad customer wouldn't pay for it. Many companies are not going to pay for anything too creative/unusual. Therefore, telling an advertiser to be more like a teacher is not quite as easy as it sounds.

Posted by: jbr | Jan 28, 2005 7:16:32 AM

Alas, jbr, you seem to have also missed the real lesson about behavior modification. In short, the intent to impose specific behavior, regardless of how noble those intentions may be, literally destroys the effectiveness of behavioral modification techniques. The examples of this are everywhere.

Posted by: John D. Mitchell | Jan 28, 2005 11:32:14 PM

Act now have some fun and make real money from now on. An exciting product to make real money.

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